I have two sons aged 6 and 3. I am separated from their mother but I have them 2/3 weekends and half of school holidays.

My eldest son has some behavioural problems, he isn't coping with the separation well and already feels like he doesn't spend enough time with me, my youngest son has some developmental delay and is actually more like an 18-24 month old than a 3 year old and requires a high level of care and constant observation.

until recently I have only been having contact with my eldest son, but after much expense and legal wrangling I see them both at the same time, however this has led to my eldest son feeling pushed to the side, some of this is just down to standard sibling jealously, but it is also partly true and i can understand why he is getting upset, he has been saying he is bored and that he doesn't love his brother, whenever I try to play with my youngest son he interjects often very roughly and in a very inappropriate way.

We cannot do most of the activities we used to do because of the level of care my youngest son requires, I am alone, so I have no one to help me with their care to enable me to share my time between them.

I have tried to re-arrange my time with them so that in addition to time together I also have time with each of them apart, at least until they are both old enough to do things together, but their mother is refusing to be at all flexible about this.

I am looking for suggestions of what I can do in this situation. Also any suggested activities we can do that would actively engage both children.

  • Not really an answer, but to help with your eldest sons feelings setting up occasional 'special' days when you have only your eldest son and the two of you go out to do something important, can help. I know you don't get much time with them anyways, but once every few months setting aside a special day for him, can help, especially if you can tie these days into special occasions. For instance if he gets good grades on his report card rewarding him with a father son 'special' day out works well. If you do that your likely also need to dedicate some special days alone with your youngest too
    – dsollen
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 2:15

2 Answers 2


What comes to mind are things that I have been able to do with my own kids while juggling various ages & levels of need.

The younger one is still likely small enough to fit a toddler carrier. You can check, but many go to 50lbs or even a little more. It allows you (if the younger is a handful when walking ) to wear them on your back & most kids of that age seem to like that as long as you keep moving.

I don't know what season you are in or the weather, but water activities are always fun for all my kids at any age. It is a little harder when you may have two needing life vests, but you can make it work with some preparation & making all safety rules clear to the 6 year old before. Splash pads can be great, or a nightmare. They are nice that drowning is no concern, but if you have two that run, it's tough. I find a beach more challenging in general but they tend to be quite busy here & invariably all my kids want to go in different directions & hard for me to keep eyes on everyone.

There are some games that would be suitable. There is a game, called Doggy Doo, that is a favorite here for kids of almost any age. It's gross & silly & generally the rules or winning don't matter as much as the silliness. There are others like that, one that hits you in the face with whipped cream. I can't recall the name. Silly games are often fine, even with one more in a 2yr old level. They aren't meant for skill, they are all about the laughs.

And as far as handling the transition, it's a balance. I do think it's always good to allow your kids to feel their feelings. I also would encourage him to share his feelings while you help him frame it, understand it, find the vocabulary to share them. I also think it's important then to help him reframe it. He will need guidance in seeing how this could be a great thing & help to foster bonding between them. I have done this lots of ways. One of them is to buy something for the younger one I know the older one will show interest in, even if it's advanced for the younger one. So often the younger has nothing the older child wants. Your older one is still too young to notice that it might be a tactic and that you did so on purpose. It allows the younger child to have some currency with the older one, to be included, or permitted to play with something they would like, etc. I also pretend the non verbal child is telling me awesome things about the older one & tell the older one what they are saying. I have yet to meet a kid that doesn't love this. They do seem to know you are making it up and yet it still seems to build goodwill between the kids. We also play the "3 things I like about you game" and it really is exactly what it sounds like. We each have to say three things we like about someone else. The first person to get stumped is out. The winner never runs out of compliments. It can be anything from I like your brown hair to you make great paper airplanes to you are very smart, silly, strong, etc. You may have to speak for the younger child, but we always include them anyway, as you want your older children naming things they like about the little ones.

I hope any of that is of help. Changes are often hard, but I am sure with some time & patience this will all sort out. Congratulations on getting visitation as you wanted with your younger child.


Baking cookies always seems to bring children of different ages together. They will enjoy decorating the cookies and the older children love the opportunity to help the younger ones.

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